This is the third article in a weekly series highlighting big local sports anniversaries, given the current down time for local sports. Readers are encouraged to share any of their memories from local sports this time of year — namely May, June and July — by emailing email@example.com. Photos would be appreciated too but are not a must.
For consideration to be included, please include what month (and day if known) and year the event took place. We’re particularly looking for events that took place on anniversary-type years from 2020 — 10, 20, 25, 50 or 75 years ago — but any event will be considered if it fits the other scope of criteria.
This week, we take a look back at some of the bigger anniversaries from Wilkes County sports in the spring months of 1985 and 2013 … 35 and seven years ago at this time:
State Champions: Blackhawks rebound, take state title series
EDITOR’S NOTE: This would fall under the scope of our criteria even though it’s not really an anniversary-type. For the first 17 years of North Carolina High School Athletic Association-sanctioned fastpitch softball, no Wilkes County team had made it to the state championships. West Wilkes finally broke through in 2013 and would go on to bring home the county’s first (and to this point, only) state championship in fastpitch softball. The following article, which is from Game 3 of the series, is from the June 3, 2013, edition of the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. It has been edited.
RALEIGH — In the words of Rachel Eller, one of five seniors on the West Wilkes softball team, the Blackhawks “all had one dream this year.”
Saturday at Walnut Creek Softball Complex, a sea of fans dressed in orange bore witness as that dream — a state softball championship — became a thrilling reality with a 4-1 win over South Creek in Game 3 of the state 1A title series.
The Blackhawks swiped Game 2 with authority Saturday morning after dropping the series opener Friday night, setting the stage for Saturday afternoon’s tiebreaker.
It was the ultimate win-or-go-home contest, and the Blackhawks were not going home — at least not without their trophy.
As with any championship-caliber team, the Blackhawks’ setback in Game 1 served only to strengthen their resolve.
“It almost made our hearts a little bit bigger,” said Eller, “and we wanted to reach our goal that much more.”
“We knew we had to come to play and do what we do,” added fellow senior Hannah Cardwell. “It was motivation to win two games today. We didn’t let it get us down; we let it get us pumped.”
West Wilkes rode the momentum of an 11-run slugfest in Game 2 into the tiebreaker, and again scored early, lending run support to Courtney Lackey in the circle.
Lackey, whom Michael Woodruff, the Blackhawks’ head coach, described as “a workhorse,” threw every pitch Saturday and struck out six Cougars while allowing just two hits in game 3.
“Courtney is a warrior,” said Woodruff. “She told me she would come out and throw until she couldn’t throw anymore. To throw 13 innings (Game 2 ended in six innings due to the mercy rule) on a day like today in the sun when it’s 90 degrees, and to move the ball well and hit her spots — what more could you ask for out of a pitcher?”
Kaitlyn Pierce played a tremendous role once more for West on offense, batting 2-for-3 (6-for-11 in the series) with a run and an RBI. Lakyn Rutledge went 2-for-3 with a double and Caitlin Shepherd and Lauren Church were each 1-for-2 with an RBI apiece.
Rutledge picked up her first hit to kick off the second frame, advanced on Eller’s sacrifice and scored on Church’s single up the middle. Shepherd smacked a double in the left-center gap to plate Church for the 2-0 Blackhawk lead.
Pierce got on after a Taylor Moore throwing error in the third, and Cardwell found grass in center to move her to third. Rutledge, up next, went down swinging, but catcher Kimberly Mobley dropped the pitch and Rutledge took off for first to draw the throw, allowing Pierce to swipe home.
South Creek’s lone run came in the sixth when a one-out blast from Mobley cleared the fence in center. As if to prove the Blackhawks’ resilience, Lackey dug in and struck out Webb, and Shepherd wrapped up the inning with a spectacular diving catch in right field.
Lackey retired the Cougars in order in their last at bat. Fittingly, as was the case in the Western Finals against Chatham Central, Lackey struck out the final batter.
When the last strike was called, the players in the field and those in the dugout met in one big, bouncing mass in front of the plate to celebrate the realization of a dream.
“We’ve been working for this since we were 8,” said Rutledge, a junior, who played coach pitch with or against several of her teammates.
More future Blackhawks “came together when we were 11 or 12 for all stars,” according to Eller, who gave special thanks to Cory Lackey, younger brother of Courtney, for his help this season.
“Cory is the secret glue that holds us together,” said Eller. “He comes to every practice. He’s done a lot for us.”
Notes: West Wilkes became the county’s first softball team to play beyond the fourth round of the state tournament…Five West seniors took part in their last high school game Saturday: Eller, Cardwell, Church, Courtney Huffman and Taylor Woods…Woods and Huffman were unable to compete in the title series due to injuries...After every defensive out made by West Wilkes on Saturday, Blackhawks fans would shout “one in the wagon, two a draggin’,” or vice-versa, according to the number of outs recorded so far in the inning.
Welborn picked by Mets in fourth round of pro draft
EDITOR’S NOTE: Before head coaching stints at both East Wilkes and North Wilkes High Schools, the late Todd Welborn had a decorated pitching career as a member of the Appalachian State University baseball program (where he would also later serve as an assistant coach). Welborn would be drafted twice — by the Oakland A’s and the New York Mets — but signed with the Mets and spent five seasons in their farm system, reaching as high a Double-A ball. His twin brother, Tony, also played professionally for the Montreal Expos farm system. The following article is from the June 6, 1985, edition of the Wilkes Journal-Patriot. It has been edited.
Todd Welborn, the former star athlete at East Wilkes High School, was selected by the New York Mets Tuesday in the fourth round (100th selection) of the Major League Baseball draft.
Following his high school career, Welborn attended Louisburg Junior College for one season. He then transferred to Appalachian State University where his twin brother, Tony, was selected as the Southern Conference “ most valuable player” in baseball for the 1984 season. This past season, Todd Welborn had a 7-2 record while compiling a 5.43 earned run average. He struck out 60 batters and walked 57.
Welborn will temporarily forgo his senior season with the Mountaineers to accept the contract with the Mets. He noted, though, that the Mets have agreed to pay for his years in school.
Though not discussing the specific contractual figures, Welborn noted that he was receiving “a pretty good bonus” from the Mets for signing.
This was not the first time Welborn had been selected in the pro draft as he was chosen in the 16th round by the Oakland A’s immediately following his graduation from high school.
“Now is the proper time to sign,” he said. “I’m 21 now, and I’m much better prepared to leave home than I would have been right out of high school. I’ve talked with my coaches from Appalachian, also, and they said that I could use more help from better instructors.
“I’m pleased to be with the Mets. Thy have a good organization, particularly for pitchers, and they have good pitching coaches on their minor league teams,” he added. “I’m pleased also with the fourth round selection. We had speculated that my name might come up in round four to seven.”
Welborn was first contacted at 4 p.m. Tuesday by Mets scout Carman Fusco, who had scouted Welborn at Appalachian State. Fusco is expected to visit the Welborn home this week to sign the newest Met.